Categories: Milford HavenPublished On: 11.05.2020382 words2 min read
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Oil and very large ships! Milford Haven has a strange beauty about it and when ex Royal Navy Officer Mike Ryan was offered the post of running the UKs 3rd largest port (by £ turnover) he jumped at the chance. His previous jobs as Lynx Navigator, Minehunter Captain and 3i/c HMS Illustrious certainly set him up well for what is a complicated and involved Harbour Master’s job.

It takes 5 and half years to train as a Milford Haven pilot, who are then qualified to safely navigate some of the world’s largest ships into one of the world’s most beautiful natural harbours. Although only one of the 5 original refineries built by companies such as Esso and Chevron is still actually refining crude oil into petrol, diesel, heating oil and avgas, the other 4 terminals are still active in importing & distributing oil. Did you know that underground pipes take fuel all over the country in 16 inch pipes? The main pipe is from Milford Haven to Wolverhampton (via Brecon) and then it splits to locations all over the UK.
I was fortunate enough to be invited into the Port Control operations room where I watched the team manage the continuous stream of oil and liquid gas ships arrive offshore, pick up two pilots via a rope ladder…yes…a rope ladder, hung down the side of the tanker. The pilots then steer the ship into the haven where up to 5 tugs meet the ship to gently manoeuvre it onto the jetty for unloading or loading. In the case of the Liquid Natural Gas ships (the ones which have large metal tent superstructures) the gas has to be kept at minus 160′ C at all times in order to store the gas at 1/600th of the volume it would be at room temperature. This includes the unloading pipes – even when there is no ship to unload they have to have LNG flowing through them to maintain their temperature. Complicated engineering or what! 

In addition to the oil terminal, Milford Haven houses Wales’ largest fishing fleet. Mike’s challenges have included “putting the port back to together again” after 2017 Storm Ophelia and building a special landing area for a tug ship to land and collect large parts of one refinery being dismantled and shipped to Pakistan.